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"Life is the Great Adventure."
Earle Donelson, Ph.D.
Counseling Psychologist
Samaritan Counseling Centers

I'm not sure who said that but it's a phrase I'm quite fond of. Sometimes pleasant, sometimes painful, it certainly is an adventure. As we go through this adventure, life provides us with many joys and blessings as well as trials and tribulations. Sometimes our lives go relatively smoothly, but, at other times, we run into "bumps, potholes and roadblocks." Sometimes the "bumps" lie within the family we were raised in or the family we marry into. Sometimes the "bumps" are found in our relationships with our spouse, children, friends, neighbors, job and co-workers, etc. And sometimes, these "bumps" are of our own making. In response, we often decide to make changes.

And change seems to be the one constant in our lives. We change our cars, our home, our address, or the city we live in. We change our jobs, our friends, even our spouse or paramour. We change our dress, our hair, our appearance. And sometimes, we simply wait and hope for change to happen to us. "If only "X" would happen (lose weight, win the lottery, etc.), I would finally be happy." We often count on these changes to help us in our pursuit of happiness and fulfillment.

For a time, these changes may improve things, give us a lift, a sense of newness. But after a while, it seems to wear off and things return to the way they were before. The same behaviors, habits, patterns and frustrations return, and we again think of making changes. The problem is that these changes are all external changes. We have changed our environment, our surroundings, even our appearance, but we, ourselves, remain basically the same.

"The More Things Change the More They Stay the Same."

Nowadays, the word "change" is frequently used interchangeably with "growth." Yet, the two words mean very different things. Semantics? Perhaps. But in our culture, I hear more talk about changing than I hear about growing. "Our ever-changing world." "A change'll do you good." "It's time to make a change." "You better change your ways."

However, the changes we need to make are on the inside. And these changes come with growth, the most important part of change. For without growth, the changes we make are simply that, changes. Failed New Years' Resolutions are good examples. We resolve to lose weight, quit smoking or drinking, to be kinder, to get a fresh start, to change "X, Y, Z." But without growth, our various resolutions go unsupported and we often fall back into the same old behaviors.

The problem is that growth isn't as easy as change. Growth, and the changes that often come with it, can be difficult, uncertain, stressful and usually require a lot more work. And growth is likely to be more durable or longer lasting than simple change. Like life, growth is a journey. Sometimes it is a journey we make by ourselves. Sometimes it is a journey we make with the help of family or friends or a counselor or our pastor. Frequently, it is a journey we make with God.

As adults, when we talk about growth, it is much more personal, internal, intimate than change. We hope that our children will "grow" to adulthood. Not just physically, but emotionally and spiritually as well. We hope they have a sense of morality and ethics and fair play. We, like our children, need to grow as we get older. Throughout our journey, it is the mental, emotional and spiritual growth we make that defines our lives, that improves our lives. Growth affects almost every aspect of our lives. Our thinking, our beliefs, our minds, our philosophy, our morals, values and ethics, our politics. How we grow affects our relationships with our family and children, our friends, our co-workers and our jobs. It affects our very outlook and enjoyment of life, our heart and our happiness. And it is ultimately our growth that affects our relationship with God. As Paul wrote, "Rather speaking the truth in love, we are to grow in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ."

"Life is the Great Adventure" and growth is the vessel we travel in towards its rewards. So the next time you find yourself thinking about making a change, think about the process of growth instead. It will be well worth the effort.


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